Scheduling: The 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix

Both Formula 1 and MotoGP remain outside of Europe, as both championships embrace round two of their respective seasons.

For MotoGP, it is a trip to South America for the Argentine round of the series, whilst Formula 1 heads to the Bahrain International Circuit. The action from Bahrain airs live across Sky Sports and Channel 4 for the third year in succession.

With Channel 4’s Lee McKenzie reducing her Formula 1 commitments further this season, her former BBC F1 colleague Tom Clarkson is super substitute, for Bahrain at least. Mark Webber and Susie Wolff join Steve Jones in Bahrain. The channel’s free-to-air race day schedule changes slightly for 2018 to cater for the F1 race starting ten minutes later than in previous years.

The Formula Two season roars into life in Bahrain, with races on Saturday and Sunday. Elsewhere, the British Superbikes returns on Easter Monday (April 2nd) at Donington Park, with action remaining live on Eurosport. Rachel Stringer joins the team as race reporter, Stringer having previously covered a variety of events for the BBC and BT Sport.

Both the domestic and world touring car series’ return as well, although the latter has a new name. The former World Touring Car Championship is back, but now known as the World Touring Car Cup as the series no longer has manufacturer participation.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
06/04 – 11:55 to 14:10 – Practice 1
06/04 – 15:55 to 17:35 – Practice 2 (More4)
07/04 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Practice 3
07/04 – 14:55 to 17:45 – Qualifying
08/04 – 15:00 to 18:45 – Race
=> 15:00 – Build-Up
=> 15:45 – Race
=> 18:20 – Reaction

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
06/04 – 11:45 to 13:50 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event from 12:00)
06/04 – 15:45 to 17:50 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
07/04 – 12:45 to 14:15 – Practice 3
07/04 – 15:00 to 17:45 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Mix)
=> 15:00 – Pre-Show
=> 15:55 – Qualifying
08/04 – 14:30 to 18:55 – Race
=> 14:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 15:30 – On the Grid
=> 16:05 – Race
=> 18:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
04/04 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Preview
05/04 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Driver Press Conference
05/04 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
07/04 – 17:45 to 18:20 – The F1 Show
11/04 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Report: Review (also Sky Sports Mix)

BBC Radio F1
05/04 – 20:00 to 20:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
06/04 – 11:55 to 13:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
07/04 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
07/04 – 15:55 to 17:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/04 – 16:00 to 19:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

MotoGP – Argentina (BT Sport 2)
06/04 – 12:45 to 20:15 – Practice 1 and 2
07/04 – 12:45 to 20:15
=> 12:45 – Practice 3
=> 16:00 – Qualifying
08/04 – 13:30 to 21:00
=> 13:30 – Warm Ups
=> 15:15 – Moto3
=> 17:00 – Moto2
=> 18:30 – MotoGP
=> 20:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Argentina (Channel 5)
10/04 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

British Superbikes – Donington Park
01/04 – 15:30 to 18:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
02/04 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
04/04 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Brands Hatch (ITV4)
08/04 – 10:15 to 18:20 – Races

Formula Two – Bahrain (Sky Sports F1)
06/04 – 09:30 to 10:20 – Practice
06/04 – 17:55 to 18:35 – Qualifying
07/04 – 11:05 to 12:15 – Race 1
08/04 – 12:10 to 13:10 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Phoenix (BT Sport 3)
07/04 – 02:00 to 05:00 (Saturday night) – Race

World Rally Championship – France
Every stage live via WRCPlus.com
06/04 – Day 1 Highlights
=> 22:15 to 22:45 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:30 to 23:00 (Motorsport.tv)
07/04 – 10:00 to 11:00 – Live: Stage 7 (BT Sport 1)
07/04 – Day 2 Highlights
=> 21:45 to 22:15 (BT Sport 1)
=> 22:30 to 23:00 (Motorsport.tv)
08/04 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Live: Stage 12 [Power Stage] (BT Sport 2)
08/04 – Day 3 Highlights
=> 21:00 to 21:30 (BT Sport 2)
=> 22:30 to 23:00 (Motorsport.tv)
11/04 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (Channel 5)

World Touring Car Cup – Marrakech
08/04 – 10:30 to 11:50 – Qualifying (Eurosport)
08/04 – 16:30 to 18:55 – Race (Eurosport 2)

As always, if the schedules change, I will update the above times.

Update on April 3rd – I would not normally update schedules retrospectively, but it is important to note that British Superbike’s first race of the weekend from Donington Park was moved from Monday to Sunday, avoiding the torrential weather that hit the circuit yesterday morning. I have updated the above for future reference to show what actually happened.

In other news, Ted Kravitz (and his Notebook!) is not part of Sky Sports F1’s Bahrain Grand Prix team this weekend as his wife has given birth to a baby girl!

Update on April 4th – As a result of Ted’s absense, Paddock Live following the race on Sunday has been cut to 25 minutes from its normal 40 minute length.

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News round-up: F1 series coming to Netflix; IndyCar domestic rights changing

In addition to all the discussion around Formula 1’s new graphics suite, the past week saw a variety of broadcasting related announcements, covering both F1 and the IndyCar Series.

F1 documentary series to air on Netflix
Netflix are to air a ten-part documentary series in 2019 focusing on the inner surroundings of Formula 1. The deal between the two parties has been mooted for several months, with an official announcement coming on the Saturday of the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

Filming has already started, and will continue throughout the 2018 season, with the production team revealing “the intense fight for the heart, soul, and direction for the future of this multibillion-dollar business.” James Gay Rees, who was previously part of the making of Senna, and Paul Martin for Box to Box Films, are the executive producers.

The Netflix series builds on the foundations laid by Amazon’s Grand Prix Driver. The four-part Amazon series focused on McLaren’s pre-season exploits prior to Australia 2017, whereas the Netflix programming has a wider remit across the whole year. I enjoyed Amazon’s documentary, and if this is half as good as that, Formula 1 fans will be in for a treat.

Sean Bratches, F1’s Managing Director of Commercial Operations, said “Formula 1 is a global sport that we are actively repositioning from a motorsport company to a media and entertainment brand. This series will unleash a compelling vantage point to the sport that will delight fans and serve as a catalyst to entice new fans.”

Bela Bajaria, Vice President of Content for Netflix, said “This partnership with Formula 1 furthers our mission of working with world-class brands and production partners to produce best-in-class unscripted series. We can’t wait for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix and to embark on an incredible season across the world.”

In a second announcement from Formula 1 last week, the organisation confirmed that coverage was returning to free-to-air broadcaster CCTV in China, with all qualifying and race sessions airing live on the network throughout 2018.

ESPN’s US coverage receives complaints
Bratches’ former home ESPN was subject to numerous complaints over the Australian Grand Prix weekend. The US broadcaster, which took over from NBC as rights holder for Formula 1, was expected to take Sky UK’s pre-race build-up show ‘On the Grid’. However, the show failed to make the air at the expected time, with a variety of technical issues.

ESPN released a press statement late on Sunday evening apologising for the difficulties. “We deeply apologise to Formula 1 fans for the technical issues that caused them to miss the first 20 minutes of the pre-race show for the Australian Grand Prix. We are sorry that our first F1 telecast did not go as smoothly as we would have liked but we are taking steps to prevent those same issues from occurring in the future.”

The secondary problem is commercial breaks. Formula 1 commentary in the UK is free-flowing, as Sky Sports air F1 uninterrupted, whereas ESPN in the US take commercials. This is a major issue if something happens whilst ESPN is on a commercial break.

Historically, US viewers had a dedicated commentary team for their audience meaning that the lead commentator could re-cap the action on return. Forcing Sky’s UK commentary team to do the same thing would disturb the flow for anyone taking the UK coverage uninterrupted and would provoke a backlash from UK viewers.

One approach would be to have Sky’s F1 presentation team (i.e. Simon Lazenby) do a voice over for US viewers leading back into the UK commentary at a given point, that way the commentary flow is untouched.

In further news, ESPN’s coverage of the Grand Prix rated lower than NBC’s coverage in recent years. According to Showbuzz Daily, ESPN2’s show failed to make the top 150 for original programmes on Saturday, recording under a 0.05 share in the adults 18 to 49 metric. Last year’s NBC coverage averaged 238,000 viewers, whereas 2016’s show averaged 222,000 viewers.

International television rights for IndyCar up for grabs
The IndyCar Series is heading to NBC from 2019, with their existing US agreement with ESPN and ABC Network coming to an end after this season, the two sides confirmed last week.

The three-year deal will see eight races, including the Indianapolis 500, broadcast on NBC’s main channel with the remaining races airing on NBC Sports Network.

In addition, NBC’s over-the-top platform, dubbed NBC Sports Gold, will offer an IndyCar package consisting of every race from the feeder series Indy Lights, plus all practice and qualifying sessions from the main series not broadcast on one of NBC’s linear television channels.

As part of the press release, NBC touted the fact that IndyCar’s viewing figures have grown in recent years with the broadcaster as part of the shared contract with ESPN/ABC. “We’re honoured to bring the Indianapolis 500, one of the most prestigious events in all of sports, to NBC, further enhancing NBC Sports’ Championship Season,” said Jon Miller, NBC’s President of Programming.

“We’ve seen consistent growth for INDYCAR on NBCSN in the past decade, and we hope to continue that growth throughout the series by leveraging the television, digital, production and marketing assets that make NBC Sports a powerful media partner.”

IndyCar officials have also confirmed that the international broadcasting rights for the series are up for grabs at the end of 2018. For UK fans, it helps clear up a few things. BT Sport have a deal to with ESPN’s international arm to air a range of content up to and including the end of 2022. Separately, IndyCar’s non-domestic rights sit with ESPN’s international arm.

ESPN International are the ‘middle man’ here, if that man changes then BT Sport will need to negotiate with the new ‘middle man’ if they want to continue to air IndyCar, unless IndyCar go direct to a broadcaster, for example Eurosport (see below).

Mark Miles, the CEO of IndyCar’s parent company Hulman and Company, said “We will now move to working on the international rights licensing right away. We’ve had a lot of those very early conversations to understand both from an agency perspective and individual broadcaster perspective who wants to talk to us.”

“[The NBC deal] does not preclude an ongoing involvement by ESPN International. Although with any result, I think it will change. There may be countries where we go direct to broadcasters in any major country with IndyCar interests. I see us being at the table, even if we go with a distributor or packager like ESPN International.”

“There are a number of agencies that would love to compete with ESPN International for whatever we’re willing to license as part of a package, and there are a number of countries where we’re already having direct conversations with broadcasters. It will be some kind of a mixed approach undoubtedly.”

F1 2018 season opener starts on same footing as 2017

The 2018 Australian Grand Prix, which featured the same one-two finish as the year before, also remarkably had near identical audience figures in the United Kingdom across the weekend, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
As noted prior to the start of this season, this site will continue to use the three-and-a-half-hour time slot, or equivalent, for Sky’s race day broadcasts. For 2018, this encompasses the final half of Pit Lane Live, On the Grid and the race show itself. All audience figures are Live + VOSDAL (Video on Same Day as Live), they include simulcast (+1) channels as well as commercial breaks.

Live coverage of the race, which aired on both Sky’s Formula 1 channel and their Main Event channel, averaged 344k (18.4%) from 05:00 to 08:30. During this period, an audience of 256k (13.8%) watched via the dedicated F1 channel, with 88k (4.6%) watching via Main Event.

Sky’s race coverage across both channels peaked with 562k (20.4%) at 07:30 as Sebastian Vettel won the Grand Prix. This figure includes viewers who recorded the live airing to watch later in the day. At the time of the peak, 418k (15.2%) were watching Sky Sports F1, and a further 144k (5.2%) via Main Event.

Compared with 2017, Sky’s average audience is down by 12.9 percent, and their peak audience down by 11.6 percent. Last year’s programme averaged 395k (22.2%), peaking with 636k (38.7%). The figures are more favourable with 2016, only a slight dip in average (344k versus 360k), but an increase in the peak audience (562k versus 559k).

Seven hours after the race finished, Channel 4’s highlights broadcast averaged 1.71m (16.8%) from 14:30 to 17:15, an increase of 3.7 percent on last year’s figure of 1.65m (20.6%). Whilst an audience increase is always nice, the total television audience year-on-year was up by 2.2 million viewers in the slot, yet Channel 4’s F1 coverage only gained by 61,000 viewers, hence why the percentage share has dropped drastically.

Similarly, Channel 4’s show peaked with 2.15m (18.2%) at 16:40, compared with a peak of 2.07m (26.0%) twelve months ago. Both the average and peak metrics for 2018 are down by around 19 percent on Channel 4’s 2016 Australia audience figures.

The combined average audience of 2.05 million viewers is a very marginal increase on last year’s average of 2.04 million viewers, or to be exact an increase of 10,000 viewers, which is within the margin of error. The same applies for the combined peak audience of 2.71 million, which itself was up 13,000 viewers on last year’s figure of 2.70 million viewers.

Considering the relative heat wave the UK experienced this time last year, to start off on the same level as that is not a great way to start the season. The low audience shares are cause for concern, as the viewers were around on Sunday, they just chose to watch something other than the F1. Australia’s numbers only serve to continue the general downward trajectory for Formula 1 – on linear television at least.

Qualifying
Sky’s qualifying coverage aired from 05:00 to 07:45 across Sky Sports F1 and Main Event to an audience of 252k (13.2%). 181k (9.4%) watched via Sky’s F1 channel, with 71k (3.8%) choosing to watch via Main Event.

Coverage of qualifying peaked with 477k (14.6%) at 07:05 as Lewis Hamilton partied to pole position, in-line with last year’s peak figure of 481k (14.6%). Again, the average for 2018 of 252k was in-line with last year’s average of 254k (12.6%). Both metrics were up around 10 percent on 2016.

Later in the day, a further 1.18m (15.1%) watched Channel 4’s highlights show from 13:00 to 14:50, down 45,000 viewers on last year’s number of 1.22m (18.2%). The broadcast peaked with 1.62m (20.2%), marginally down year-on-year.

The combined average audience of 1.42 million viewers is slightly down on last year’s audience figure of 1.48 million viewers.

The 2017 Australian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

overnights.tv-bannersF1

Poll: Which F1 graphics set do you prefer?

The 2018 Australian Grand Prix saw Formula One Management (FOM) unveil a new-look to their television product, with a new introduction five-minutes before the race and a new graphics set.

Admittedly, some of the riskier and controversial options on the table, such as introducing a highlights reel half way through the race, did not make it to fruition, for Australia at least. Inevitably, comparisons will be made between this set of graphics and previous iterations. But which set is your favourite? Here is a look at each graphics set, along with a poll at the bottom of this post.

I have made a conscious decision to leave out any of the graphics set from before 1994, as my knowledge of what happened before then in this area is limited. I also am unaware whether there was a consistent graphics set used for complete years, or whether it was the decision of each of the local hosts. What I do know though, is that from 1994, things became a lot more consistent.

Also, the content in this article is copied from the equivalent 2015 version, except with a few minor rewording tweaks here and there, plus a new section for 2018. When I ran this post in 2015 to mark the introduction of the previous set, 748 people voted as follows:

  • 14.4% – 1994 to 2003
  • 7.1% – 1996 to 2002 (F1 Digital+)
  • 9.0% – 2004 to 2009
  • 27.1% – 2010 to 2014
  • 42.4% – 2015

How will you vote this time around? First, here is a summary of the different packages…

1994 to 2003
Anyone who began watching Formula 1 in the late 1990’s will remember this graphics set fondly. Probably dubbed as the classic graphics set, the World Feed graphics were standardised for the beginning of 1994 and remained in place for a decade.

The classic graphics set on display during the 2000 Australian Grand Prix Qualifying session.

For its time, the graphics did their job perfectly, but towards the end, the graphics set had outlived their welcome as viewers wanted more data and detail, especially those that had returned to the World Feed from the defunct F1 Digital+ platform. Plus, it is fair to say that those graphics would be unsuitable in a widescreen era, and unusable in a three-part qualifying session if not tweaked significantly.

1996 to 2002 – F1 Digital+
Whilst the majority of the world were accustomed to the classic graphics set seen above, a small portion of the audience who subscribed to the F1 Digital+ service across Europe (and in the UK through Sky during 2002) received a different graphics set, which was arguably ahead of its time.

The F1 Digital+ graphics set in action during practice for the 2002 United States Grand Prix.

Those who watched via the standard World Feed did see the F1 Digital+ graphics set once, during the 2002 United States Grand Prix, but apart from that, it was hidden away on the pay-per-view service. Once the service collapsed, the graphics set was discontinued, although the collapse of the service was what probably led to the World Feed graphics getting an overhaul for the beginning of the 2004 season.

2004 to 2009
The 2004 to 2009 graphics set was notable given the number of new features that came with it, such as the timing tower, which I do not believe was included in the F1 Digital+ set. This was also the first graphics set that made heavy use of the three lettered abbreviations that are now commonplace in motor sport. What I do not know is whether these were FOM innovations within motor racing, or a trend that began elsewhere – anyone who watches football will know that abbreviations have been around for decades.

The no flash, more modern graphics set on display during qualifying for the 2006 Australian Grand Prix.

Items such as the rev-counter, which commonly appeared on F1 Digital+, soon became integrated into this graphics set. As with every graphics set, the set was adjusted as time progressed, but the basic template remained the same throughout. As FOM made the transition to widescreen for the 2007 season, the graphics set remained within the 4:3 safe area until they were replaced at the end of 2009. It may not have been the flashiest graphics set ever, however it did its job fine.

2010 to 2014
All of the previous graphics set up until 2010 had featured straight lines, either horizontally or vertically. The graphics set introduced at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix went for a more slanted approach, this was presumably done so it matched the slanted aspect of the F1 logo. Yes, the graphics did look ‘sexier’ than previous versions, but did it provide anything that the previous versions did not? Well, not really.

A picture of FOM’s graphics set, as seen during Q2 at the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix.

When I compared Dorna’s MotoGP graphics with FOM’s graphics in October 2013, I concluded that “if you are looking for something easy on the eye, then FOM wins, but if you want a data driven set, then Dorna with their MotoGP graphics is a clear winner.”

Like the previous version, this set of graphics went through multiple iterations from 2010 until 2014, but the overall vision remained the same, with not much changing under the surface during the five years.

2015 to 2017
Minimalist was the name of the game, and with branding around the world heading that way in the past five years, this iteration of FOM’s graphical package followed that trend. ‘Keep it simple’ is another way of saying it, and I was a fan of this set.

The 2015 to 2017 graphics set on display during practice two at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.

Maybe this set was too clean for what the ‘new’ Liberty Media style Formula 1 brand is trying to be? In terms of value added, again you could argue that FOM did not revolutionise with this graphics set, leading to a stale television product. But what they had was good, in my view. Part of me wishes that FOM iterated with that set, rather than ripping up the form book again for 2018.

But, if the code that generates the graphics is unwieldy, complex and has what is known in the field as ‘technical debt’, then starting back from square one is worth it in the long term.

2018
It was inevitable that with Liberty Media’s take over a new graphics set would arrive ready for 2018. Whilst the new package has potential, and already has several strong points, there are one or two areas that need to change.

2018 Australian GP - Qualifying.png
Looking at McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne during the 2018 Australian Grand Prix qualifying session.

The very basic point to start with is that the font size on the timing wall needs to be larger. Compared to the previous two iterations, the size of the font is smaller, making it difficult to read on different devices – squinting at the television is not the best method for watching Formula 1! Secondly, FOM need to iron out the colour clashes (the ‘purple sector’ problem is one of these).

One the other hand, the timing wall is clearly more flexible than the previous iteration with information about the driver, such as their team logo, displayed occasionally to help the newer fan coming into the sport. The wall also clearly identifies when a driver has overtaken someone else in practice or the race, through red and green markers.

A further post will be coming up in the next week or so with detailed analysis looking at all aspects of FOM’s package for 2018. Of course, there are always room for improvements with any graphics set, but, as with the 2015 set, these are mainly tweaks. If the font size does not change moving forward, there should be cause for concern. But, where does the 2018 graphics set stack up for you historically?

Do you like the approach taken by FOM, or do you wish we could travel back in time to the 1990’s and get the ‘black and yellow’ colour scheme back? It is time to have your say in the poll below and as always, your views and opinions are welcome.

Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 in 2018

Fans in the United Kingdom have a variety of options to watch Sky’s coverage of Formula 1, however the cheapest options are experiencing a price rise for 2018, the latest analysis shows.

With pay TV growth heading towards saturation point, Sky are trying to try to prevent fans from illegal methods of viewing the sport, something that has been ongoing for several years, but are now attempting more aggressively.

Since the start of the 2017 season, two major developments have happened. The first, in July last year, saw Sky unveil a new look for their Sports offering, getting rid of the previous 1, 2, 3 system and introducing channels branded around specific content, such as Sky Sports Football, Cricket and Golf, offering customers the opportunity to subscribe to just one of these, including F1.

The second is the yet to be launched (and now delayed) over-the-top service, which will not be available in the UK. Why is this of importance? Although Formula One Management (FOM) will do everything possible to prevent fans in the UK from accessing the service, some may still slip through the net, hurting Sky’s audience figures marginally in the process.

The below information is primarily aimed at new customers on both Sky and Virgin Media. As regular readers for these services will be aware, if you threaten to leave (otherwise known as ‘haggling’), expect Sky or Virgin to offer a cost reduction to secure your custom. This is not a guarantee, but likely if the pay TV company values your services, and if you have been a long-term customer. Note that all the comparisons exclude double and triple play choices, such as phone and broadband deals.

Sky
For the second year running, you can view Formula 1 in standard definition (SD), high definition (HD) and ultra-high definition (UHD) with Sky. The price increases with each tier. As in 2017, the UHD option splits into two sub-categories, depending on whether you want the remainder of your content available in high or standard definition.

There are two tables below. One, if you wish to view Sky Sports F1 only within the Sky Sports portfolio, and a second option if you wish to access all of Sky Sports’ portfolio of channels.

Option – Sky F1 only SD
Sky Q 1TB Box
HD
Sky Q 1TB Box
UHD + SD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
UHD + HD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
Entertainment £20.00 £20.00 £20.00 £20.00
Sky Sports F1 only £18.00 £18.00 £18.00 £18.00
Sky HD £6.00 £6.00
Sky Q Multiscreen £12.00 £12.00
Monthly Cost £38.00 £44.00 £50.00 £56.00
Yearly Cost £456.00 £528.00 £600.00 £672.00
One-Off Installation Cost £20.00 £20.00 £65.00 £65.00
Yearly Cost £476.00 £548.00 £665.00 £737.00

For Sky, it is all change since the start of 2017. The Original and Box Set Bundles, priced at £22.00 and £38.00 respectively (the latter you needed to watch sport in high definition), have gone. In its place is Sky’s entry level Entertainment offering, priced at £20.00 for the first 18 months, increasing to £25.00. Simplification is the name of the game, to try and hook customers into their offering.

As alluded to above, sports fans can now purchase individual channels. Sky Sports F1 on top of the basic package is £18.00 more, one might argue that is too expensive for a specific channel, nevertheless it is an improvement over other Sky TV options if you are only interested in Formula 1. If you are into a range of sports, the complete Sky Sports Pack is more appropriate.

Option – Sky Sports all SD
Sky Q 1TB Box
HD
Sky Q 1TB Box
UHD + SD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
UHD + HD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
Entertainment £20.00 £20.00 £20.00 £20.00
Sky Sports £27.50 £27.50 £27.50 £27.50
Sky Sports HD £6.00 £6.00
Sky Q Multiscreen £12.00 £12.00
Monthly Cost £47.50 £53.50 £59.50 £65.50
Yearly Cost £570.00 £642.00 £714.00 £786.00
One-Off Installation Cost £20.00 £20.00 £65.00 £65.00
Yearly Cost £590.00 £662.00 £779.00 £851.00

I should note that there are significant offers currently related to the above. Firstly, if you purchase Sky Sports F1 only, you get Sports free in high definition. Secondly, there is currently an offer getting you Sky Sports for £20.00 instead of £27.50, almost rendering the Sky F1 only option redundant.

In addition, the Entertainment entry-level price of £20.00 only applies for the first 18 months, following which the pack is £25.00. Why have I not included the Sky Sports offers in the two tables? Because it is unclear how long these offers will last for, the Sky website does not specify an expiry date.

Virgin Media
Compared with 2017, Virgin Media’s pricing structure is largely unchanged with a £2.00 rise for Mix TV, and then a £5.01 rise for installation the only two things of note.

Option SD
TiVo 500GB Box
HD
TiVo 500GB Box
Mix TV £22.00 £22.00
Sky Sports Collection £31.75 £31.75
Sky Sports HD £7.00
Monthly Cost £53.75 £60.75
Yearly Cost £645.00 £729.00
One-Off Installation Cost £20.00 £20.00
Yearly Cost £665.00 £749.00

I have triple checked their website, and most of Virgin Media’s existing offers relate to their Broadband offering meaning that, at this moment in time, Sky is the more viable option for new customers entering the pay TV market.

Now TV
For those of you unwilling to pay a large pay TV subscription, Now TV is an attractive option, and their most appetising offer expires at 23:59 on March 25th. The F1 Season Pass gives you access to all Sky Sports channels for the equivalent of £16.67 a month, or £150.00 across the nine months.

Beyond that, there are three Now TV tiers for Sky Sports. The bad news is that the day pass and the weekly pass have increased compared to twelve months ago. The day pass costs £7.99 (up £1.00), whilst the weekly pass is £12.99 (up £2.00). The monthly pass remains £33.99.

Other than the F1 Season Pass, you can watch every race live by purchasing six monthly passes this year:

– pass 1 can be used from March 24th to April 24th (Australia and China)
– pass 2 can be used from May 11th to June 11th (Spain and Canada)
– pass 3 can be used from June 23rd to July 23rd (France and Germany)
– pass 4 can be used from July 28th to August 28th (Hungary)
– pass 5 can be used from September 1st to October 1st (Italy and Russia)
– pass 6 can be used from October 25th to November 25th (Mexico and Brazil)

The six Now TV monthly passes work out at a cost of £186.94 across the year. A cheaper option would be to buy eleven weekly passes, at a cost of £142.89 across the year, but this option is more expensive than 2017 with one additional race, combined with the rise in price for the weekly pass. If you are only interested in the race, eleven different day passes will cost you £87.89 across the year. Is Now TV slowly losing its value for money status? It will be fascinating to track Now TV’s prices this year to see if further rises follow, or whether the status quo returns.

Sky Sports Mobile TV
The cheapest option for fans remains Sky Sports Mobile TV for iPhone and Android. Although the premium tier has risen in price by £1.00 compared with last year to £10.99 per calendar month, it remains value for money, costing fans £65.94 for six calendar months.

In summary, here are the key numbers for Formula 1 fans, including installation. I have compared to the equivalent prices from 2017 to give a sense of the change for each year-on-year.

– £851.00 a year – Sky (All – UHD + HD other content) – down £211.00
– £779.00 a year – Sky (All – UHD + SD other content) – down £19.00
– £749.00 a year – Virgin Media (HD) – up £29.01
– £737.00 a year – Sky (F1 – UHD + HD other content) – new
– £665.00 a year – Virgin Media (SD) – up £29.01
– £665.00 a year – Sky (F1 – UHD + SD other content) – new
– £662.00 a year – Sky (All – HD) – down £211.00
– £590.00 a year – Sky (All – SD) – down £19.00
– £548.00 a year – Sky (F1 – HD) – new
– £476.00 a year – Sky (F1 – SD) – new
– £186.94 – Now TV (Monthly Pass x 6)
– £150.00 – Now TV (F1 Season Pass) – expires on March 25th
– £142.89 – Now TV (Weekly Pass x 11) – up £32.99
– £87.89 – Now TV (Day Pass x 11) – up £17.99
– £59.95 – Sky Sports Mobile TV

Remember that Sky owns Now TV, which may explain why their highest-tier packages have dropped in price, with Sky instead passing some of the cost back onto entry-level Now TV subscribers. It feels like Sky Sports Mobile TV goes under the radar but is an increasingly viable option with Now TV prices on the rise.

With Sky’s premium tier prices decreasing, you must ask the question: what happens to existing customers who are on packages that no longer exist? The answer: you stay on that tier. See also, the pockets of customers who remain on the legacy Sky F1 HD pack that was created at the start of 2012.

There is a very good chance that you might be paying more than what you should be and may be able to get your package reduced onto one of the tiers outlined above. Many customers may not notice, but it is worth checking your bill to make sure the pricing reflects the information above.

Have you spotted anything worth adding? Is Sky F1 available via any other legal avenues not mentioned in this piece? Drop a line in the comments section below.

Pricing and information correct as of March 24th, 2018. Pricing is subject to change.